“In India, cricket is a sport for fathers, football is a sport for teenagers. notes Daniel Glynn, director of Sleeping Giant, a documentary that follows the journey of two Indian football players. Young people on the street often play with a European club's jersey on their back. The passion for football is there.
More fans, therefore more sales
IMG-Reliance hopes to capitalize on this popularity. The initiative has one advantage: it is intended to draw public attention to domestic football, attract more fans and therefore more income and therefore more investors. But then ? Indian Super League teams are not required to finance stadiums or organize training programs. And the eight participating teams are based in regions in the south and east where football is already popular: Goa, Kolkata, the North East, Chennai… Delhi will be the only team from the north of the country where there is interest in domestic football Football is less. “Reliance could have set up teams in populous northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab to expand the football culture in India.” regrets Novy Kapadia.
Ranked 158th out of 208 in the FIFA rankings
Enough to annoy enthusiasts. Many despair of teams building training centers for players and coaches capable of identifying and then training young prospects who could form a top-flight national team. The Indian team is ranked 158th out of 208 in the Fifa rankings. The Indian Football Association only manages three academies in which it accepts young people under the age of 17. It is still too early to assess the level of these players. They will take part in the World Championships in their category in three years. India is the organizing country.
Between glitter and retirement home
Alessandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pirès, Fredrik Ljungberg: The last three months have been marked by regular announcements of players joining the Indian Super League. A star line-up that is certainly impressive, but still raises questions. Most of the announced players are nearing retirement or have already hung up their football boots.
The phenomenon is not new. Pelé, Zico, Dunga, George Best and more recently David Beckham and Thierry Henry have also decided to move to less prominent sports championships at the end of their careers. Even if these refugee countries, at the time Japan and the United States, were not recognized for the sporting level of their national championships, on the other hand, they were able to offer these glories, but at the end of their careers corresponding emoluments to their rich balance sheet.
These footballers, looking for one last very profitable freelance job, saw an ever-increasing number of new exotic destinations to satisfy them in the early 2000s. China, Qatar, Australia and now India have joined the fight.
A simple loss guide
The organizers of the Indian Super League are aware that their championship does not have a good image among the Indian public, which is fed by the Premier League (England) and the Champions League all year round, and have decided to do things themselves to reach out and certainly attract aging stars but with a solid track record. That's why they assigned each team taking part in the competition one of these star players, the “Marquee Players”, as well as a coach with a certain level of media fame. The player and the coach therefore act as loss leaders to attract glitz-needy Indian fans.
We still had to manage to win over these big names in football. The organizers of the Indian Super League had two advantages. On the one hand, a well-filled portfolio that can arouse the interest of these football stars, but on the other hand, an attractive competition format. The Indian Super League is short, very short. The competition starts on October 12th and lasts only ten weeks. Aside from being richly featured, it represents a relatively small time commitment for any player who agrees to take part in the adventure.
There is a blatant lack of rhythm
However, there was still one problem to be solved, namely the physical condition of the “marquee players”. Aside from their age, which is closer to their 40s than their 30s, some of these players lack rhythm. Robert Pirès, for example, gave up his crampons a few months ago. Here too, the organizers have found the solution: regardless of their level of performance on the field, these players are there, above all, to benefit their team and the league from their aura by bringing the touch of glamor that was sorely missing until the Indian Championship . It is therefore up to the unnamed players of the Indian Super League – more than half of the Indian players as well as some foreign players, often from the lower leagues of various European championships – to ensure the purely sporting aspect. Under these circumstances, I am not sure whether Indian audiences, who are craving for quality shows, will find what they are looking for.
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